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Review Round-up: Broken Glass Moves to Vaudeville

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Iqbal Khan's revival of Arthur Miller's 1994 play Broken Glass opened at the West End's Vaudeville Theatre on Friday (16 September, previews from 14 September 2011) starring Antony Sher and Tara Fitzgerald.

Originally staged at Kiburn's Tricycle Theatre, Broken Glass was remounted at the North London theatre for a month-long run before its West End transfer.

Originally staged at the National Theatre, Broken Glass focuses on a Jewish couple living in 1938 New York whose lives are affected by the anti-Semitic events of Kristallnacht (The night of Broken Glass) in Nazi Germany.

Gellburg hires a psychiatrist to help his wife recover from the trauma, but her treatment begins to expose cracks in their marriage.

Broken Glass, which also stars Caroline Loncq, Brian Protheroe, Suzan Sylvester and Stanley Townsend, continues its limited season at the Vaudeville until 10 December 2011.

Michael Coveney

"Its overloaded hysteria somehow channelled in Iqbal Khan's production ... This is down to Antony Sher, whose manic performance as Phillip Gellburg... is perfectly suited to the clodhopping hysteria of Miller's theatrical thesis … Though I quite like Grant Olding's music, and musician Laura Moody sure can make hay with the double-stopping and “col legno” extras. The Gellburgs' marriage is really a threesome, with Stanley Townsend's immensely sympathetic, nicely pitched Dr Harry Hyman falling in love with Sylvia ... Khan's production looks very good at the Vaudeville, set in a sort of marbled limbo (designed by Mike Britton) ... Brian Protheroe chips in with a well-dressed cypher as Gellburg's employer ... Caroline Lonq provides some suitably hysterical laughter, though not in the audience. In the end, you'll either buy Sher's performance, or you won't. It's an artfully maintained caricature of a man eating himself inside out, destroyed by self-loathing, paranoia, too much intensity and rampant egomania."

Michael Billington

"Arthur Miller's 1994 play towers over the dismal lowlands of current West End theatre like a majestic mountain peak ... It emerges in Iqbal Khan's production, first seen at the Tricycle a year ago, as far and away the best of Miller's late plays ... Antony Sher also gives a magnificent performance as Phillip. With his over-deliberate speech, slicked-down hair and neurotically precise movements, he shows us a man who has elevated status above passion and human feeling … You hear distinct echoes of Death of a Salesman. Tara Fitzgerald plays Sylvia, and she impeccably suggests a woman for whom marital resentment coalesces with historical awareness. Stanley Townsend is equally fine as the big-hearted doctor, and Caroline Loncq as his breezily tolerant wife sums up one theme of this overwhelmingly moving play when she says of life that 'you draw your cards face down, you turn them over and you do your best with the hand you've got'."

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

"Antony Sher makes Gellburg fascinatingly complex. He resembles a machine, and his carefully maintained veneer is especially apparent in his hair, which looks as if it has been painted on to his skull … His wife Sylvia (Tara Fitzgerald)... gives a measured and precise performance, while Stanley Townsend is stunningly good as Hyman - virile and commanding ... As he falls for Sylvia, his passion seems something that cannot be tamed. The characters' suffering resounds in the cello music that Laura Moody plays expressively between scenes. It's impressive - but overdone … Broken Glass isn't Arthur Miller at his best: too slow, at times clunky, and overloaded with symbolism. Yet there is a striking rawness in the writing, and fine performances compensate for the flaws. Iqbal Khan's production is not as intense as when I saw it at the more intimate Tricycle last year, but it remains taut and intelligent, and Sher is utterly compelling."

Libby Purves
The Times

"Antony Sher as Phillip Gellburg is rigid with self-control, jerky with self-doubt and long impotent despite a yearning love of his wife ... Gellburg's friend Dr Hyman (Stanley Townsend) is his opposite, down to the baggy suit and riding boots ... This is Arthur Miller, whose slow-unfolding text is matched by Sher's agonised evocation of self-disgust and fear … Iqbal Khan's production deserves all the praise that it won last year at the Tricycle. Tara Fitzgerald as Sylvia moves convincingly from misery and terror to final compassion, and Townsend gives the doctor a swaggering warmth. Above all, Miller's shaping means that after all the angst… the final scene is full of laughter. Close to death he gets the point. We're all afraid, but that's no excuse for giving up. As the raucous Mrs Hyman says: 'You draw your cards face down. You turn them over and do the best with what you get.' Human absurdity overflows the confines of pain to become the joke that it is."

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph

"This play by Arthur Miller, first staged in 1994, is a challenging and painful piece ... Late Arthur Miller is usually second-rate Arthur Miller, but Broken Glass grips throughout ... In Iqbal Khan's fine production, first seen last year at the Tricycle Theatre, the work packs a dramatic and emotional punch. Sher gives a superb performance of crippling anxiety, his body racked with tension, his voice often emerging as a strangulated rasp of confusion and hurt … Fitzgerald brings a potent mixture of warmth, sensuality and grief to the sexually neglected wife, and there is a terrific performance from Stanley Townsend as her doctor … The production is punctuated by an onstage cellist, Laura Moody, playing a score by Grant Olding reminiscent of Elgar's turbulent, grief-filled cello concerto. It greatly adds to the power of the production."

- Katherine Graham


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